Oxford, New Zealand
Oxford is a small town of 1,905 people serving the farming community of North Canterbury, New Zealand. It is part of the Waimakariri District. Oxford is a linear town, approximately two kilometres long. For a time Oxford was serviced by the Oxford Branch railway, and had two stations, East Oxford and West Oxford. Due to declining traffic, the line was closed in 1959 and subsequently removed. Some railway signs and the remnants of some old railway platforms can still be seen along Oxford Road on the way to Rangiora.
Oxford was originally a logging town: trees were felled from forests in the area, and then hauled by beast to Christchurch. A mural depicting life from that era is painted on the side wall of the butchers shop.
Oxford has won awards for both the most beautiful village, and the most beautiful toilet.
Oxford is located at the inland edge of the Canterbury Plains, approximately 50 km northwest of Christchurch, at 43°18' South 172°11' East (-43.1666, 172.0833) . The township is about 30 km from Rangiora to the East, and the townships of Sheffield and Darfield to the west.
Oxford can be reached from Christchurch by means of Tram Road, which has the longest straight section of road in New Zealand.
It is unclear whether the town is named after either Oxford in England, or more particularly after its university, but it is more probable that it was named after Samuel Wilberforce, who was the Bishop of Oxford from 1845 to 1870. The township was named by the chief surveyor of the Canterbury Association, Joseph Thomas, in 1849.
Oxford's excellent historical museum is housed in a building that was built by the community from more than 20,000 hand-made bricks.
The Oxford Farmers' Market operates in Main St, between the Service Centre and the butcher, every Sunday from 9:30 to 12:30. This is one of the few Canterbury Farmers' market to operate year round. A Craft Market runs on the first Sunday of each month in the Town Hall.
Oxford has a Town Hall, which opened in 1931. The new town hall was intended to replace two previous town halls and was seen as one means to unify East Oxford and West Oxford into a single township. The hall is currently waiting for earthquake upgrading...
The community saved hard during 2005 and 2006 to raise funds for such projects as a community-based swimming pool in Burnett Street (the Oxford Community Pool) and a first-response ambulance to assist local citizens. The town prides itself on its ability to self-fund community projects through organizations such as the Lions.
Oxford has several Churches and Organisations
Oxford Union Church (Presbyterian)
Oxford Baptist Church
Seventh Day Adventist Church
Tawera Masonic Lodge
Oxford Working Men’s Club
West Oxford Hotel (Public House - The West)
Oxford was linked to Christchurch in 1878 by the Oxford Branch Line, a narrow-gauge line running from Oxford West to Rangiora to meet the broad gauge from Christchurch. With the gauge conversion of 1878, it became easier to transfer passengers and freight from the branch line to Christchurch - although passengers still had to change trains at Rangiora from the Waipara train to the branch train. At one time the line stretched from Rangiora through Bennetts Junction (where the Eyreton Branch Line met the Oxford Branch), Oxford, and to Sheffield. This necessitated a high road-rail bridge across the Waimakariri Gorge.
The extension from Oxford to Sheffield closed in 1931 along with the Eyreton Branch from Bennetts to Eyreton, leaving the Oxford branch to live out the rest of its days as a rural branch line. It lost its passenger service in the 1940s, and from thereon became a 'freight only' line. Due to declining revenue, the New Zealand Railways closed the branch on 31 May 1959, and sold the line to Scotts Engineering of Christchurch, who used the rails from several branch lines to build farm sheds.
The line was latterly worked by the A and AB class 4-6-2 and C class 2-6-2 tender locomotives. No diesel locomotives or railcars are known to have used the branch, although thought was given in the 1940s to running a small railcar on the Branch to provide a passenger service.
Oxford Benevolent and Improvement League
The OB&I is an organization formed during World War I to provide charitable support to war widows. To raise money, the League showed films in the old Oxford Town Hall. The OB&I still exists and provides charitable support to the citizens of Oxford. Today, movies are screened in the Town Hall on approximately every other Saturday during the winter. The heyday of the OB&I movies was the middle of the 20th century, when three or four films would be shown every week, and queues often extended around the building. This was before private car ownership became popular as the nearest cinema was in Christchurch, some 50 km distant.
Renovating Main Street
During 2009 Oxford's Main Street underwent a major renovation with the road resurfaced, pedestrian refuges in strategic locations and new footpaths with garden beds. The old welcome signs were replaced with new "Experience Oxford" signs at East and West entries. This project was a joint undertaking by the Waimakariri Council and the Oxford Promotions and Action Committee (OPAC).however they ran out of money and never finished both sides of the street.
- Quickstats about Oxford
- Waimakariri District Council (2000). District public toilet strategy (PDF). Retrieved 2012-06-28. Unknown parameter
- Reed, A. W. (2010). Peter Dowling, ed. Place Names of New Zealand. Rosedale, North Shore: Raupo. p. 297. ISBN 9780143204107.
- Hight, James; C. R. Straubel (1957). A History of Canterbury. Volume I : to 1854. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. p. 120.